Ena Kapetanović, an entrepreneur from Sarajevo, has spent more than half of her life in wheelchair, trying to overcome all the obstacles that made her daily life difficult.
Although the rights of people with disabilities are regulated in national and international legislation, they still do not enjoy the same conditions and opportunities in BiH; Kapetanović says they face two kinds of challenges: systemic and physical.
The first group of challenges includes laws, policies, practices and strategies the government formulates for this group, while the second include spaces that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities because of the way they are designed.
“Many buildings are not equipped with access ramps for persons with disabilities. Pavements in front of buildings are too narrow for wheelchair or walking aids, door handles are not reachabile, city transport has no ramps, insufficient lighting causes problems to people with poor sight…”Ena Kapetanović
Having realized that, as she puts it, right to freedom of movement is not equal for everyone, Kapetanović focused her entrepreneurial mind on developing innovative solutions that will allow people with mobility difficulties to move around safely and independently.
Her own experience and knowledge of new technologies helped her design a digital platform called WeMapp that helps people with difficulties to safely move anywhere, by mapping the best routes for them in any city.
Importance of her idea was recognized by the UNDP’s Accelerator Lab and they supported Kapetanović in developing online application that works as navigation for people with limited mobility, and adapts to their varying motoric abilities.
The WeMapp application creates a map that detects obstacles and accessibility limitations, and offers to the users personalized routes based on their motoric abilities. In order to help initial mapping efforts that were necessary for development of the application, the UNDP Accelerator Lab conduced test mapping in April 2022 with students of Secondary Civil Engineering and Geodetics School in Sarajevo. Within an hour, students managed to identify in the city center more than 150 obstacles for people with mobility difficulties.
“They identified obstacles at almost every meter of public space, like in streets, public buildings etc., there were obstacles, and found that everything would have to be renewed in order to make public areas accessible to all,” said Arijana Drinić of UNDP Accelerator Lab.
Kapetanović underlines that society as a whole needs to change the way it views disabilities, and communicate with the disabled persons’ community in order to jointly work on overcoming all barriers. She believes that it is important to understand the importance of technology for the disabled people.
“Thanks to technology, people with disabilities now have the opportunity to access information, education, remote work and improve communication and connections with the community. Technology is and will remain a powerful driver for successful and inclusive future. The key feature of technology is that it is focused on accessibility and offers almost limitless flexibility, making it adaptable to all varieties of disability. This endless opportunity is truly what tech should be all about – for everyone”Ena Kapetanović
In his message sent out on the eve of December 3, the International Day of People with Disabilities, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, emphasized the important role of technology and innovation in the process of creating more accessible and just world.
“We need transformative solutions to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind. This requires greater public-private sector collaboration to develop strategies for, with and by persons with disabilities. The cornerstone of this cooperation must be the active participation of persons with disabilities in their full diversity, and their full inclusion in all decision-making processes,” said the UN Secretary-General.
Over the past years, and with support of UNDP, local authorities in BiH have stepped up their efforts to improve living conditions of people with disabilities, helped by the UNDP’s Country Infrastructure Development Initiative (CIDI). This five-year project (2018-2023) aims to improve quality of life of people in BiH through targeted investments in infrastructure and improved public services. It is financed primarily by cantonal and local authorities in BiH, with UNDP’s co-financing. The Ministry of Labor, Social Policy, Displaced Persons and Refugees of SC is the main investor in the activities of removing barriers, and so far, they invested 2.9 million BAM to such purposes.
It has been estimated that around the 60,000 people with disabilities living in the Sarajevo Canton will have direct benefits of this project. At the initiative of the Government of the Sarajevo Canton (SC), in 2019, under the CIDI projects, activities were started to remove architectural barriers in SC to help people with mobility difficulties by constructing access ramps and other infrastructure.
Twenty-eight institutions of education, health, social protection and other public services will be fully adapted to use by people with mobility difficulties. Concrete interventions include installation of lifts, platforms, access ramps, and adapting the toilets to needs of people with disabilities.
“Besides the elimination of architectural barriers, the CIDI project also intends to produce design documentation for additional 11 buildings, and the works will as soon as all the required permits and approvals are obtained,” said Vedran Bećirović, Chief Engineer of the UNDP’s CIDI project.
“Works have been completed on 24 buildings, while they are still ongoing on three buildings. With respect to other public institutions that responded to our call for participation in the project, we are currently working to collect and complete documentation that is needed for implementation of works,” said Amira Gackić from the Ministry.
Steliana Nedera, UNDP Resident Representative in BiH, said on the occasion of the International Day of People with Disabilities, that communities that treat all their citizens with equal respect and guarantee equal treatment were much stronger and resilient.
“To make sure that no one is left behind, and to achieve full and effective implementation of the existing legislation protecting fundamental rights, it is necessary to strengthen administrative capacities, ensure appropriate resources, and continue to remove all kinds of barriers. Our successful partnership with the Government of the Sarajevo Canton is an example that shows that change can be achieved and everyday life of people with disabilities can be improved. We remain committed to continuing such joint efforts with national partners from all over BiH,” said Nedera.
For Kapetanović and tens of thousands of others in the Sarajevo Canton and BiH, each building or location where physical or other barriers are removed represents a small victory towards achieving the goal the whole society strives to achieve – life without discrimination and restrictions, where everybody is equal and no one is left behind.